Title: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Release Date: November 18, 2016
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: David Yates
Release Format: Theatrical
JK Rowling has had all of us twisted around her finger since the first Harry Potter book released in 1997. In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, she has found a way to describe the world we love and are familiar with in a new, exciting way that will keep fans coming back for more. There is very little to complain about in Rowling’s first success writing for the big screen. Fantastic Beasts is a magical adventure filled with clever creatures, loveable protagonists, and a look at the wizarding world in America that will leave you totally ready for the second iteration of the series. (Is it 2018 yet??)
In this prequel to the Harry Potter series, our main character is the legendary wizard, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). Newt has been on a world-wide journey to find, protect, and document fantastic beasts for a book he is writing, and our adventure with Newt begins in New York in 1926. After a mix-up with a “No-Maj” wanna be baker, Jacob Kowalski (Dan Folger), Scamander loses his case full of beasts. When the beasts escape, Newt must track them down with the help of Kowalski and Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), an ex-investigator of the Magical Congress of United States of America. Finding the beasts become even more important when they are being blamed for attacks done by Gellert Grindelwald and his followers.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is JK Rowling’s first attempt at a screenplay, and the product is beautiful. The story is well thought out and a perfect introduction to the American wizarding world. Instead of spelling out the differences in this new take on the wizarding world, the audience learns as Newt Scamander, a proud Hufflepuff, does about these strange American wizarding laws. The American system of dealing with magic is much harsher and colder than in Europe and has very strong oppositions to those without magical abilities. Wizards are a very hidden community in America, and Grindelwald and his followers believe that they should be hidden no more. We are led to believe that Grindelwald’s desire for wizarding freedom will develop in the following films.
Despite the darkness of this film, Eddie Redmayne and Dan Folger provide a charming, fantastical performance as Newt and Jacob. Once again, you will absolutely love all of our main characters, but especially these two. Redmayne’s performance is exactly what you would expect from such a legendary wizard, and his interactions with Folger bridge the gap between wizards and muggles. Eddie Redmayne’s version of Newt Scamander will, without a doubt, be your favorite wizard ever after you see the film. Throughout the film, I couldn’t help thinking that Jacob was me. He is a man seeing physical evidence of a magical world for the first time, and he is totally entranced and accepting of it. The audience will have no problem mimicking his smile throughout the film. (I’m really, REALLY hoping we will see more of them in the next film.)
Not only is the acting and writing done superbly, the special effects are also above par. The creatures are made so beautifully, and it’s obvious they were created with care. They look so believable whether in their natural habitat or causing havoc on the New York City streets. Beasts, big or small, fascinate and awe you as they are introduced in the film. (Niffler being my personal favorite) Each of the fantastic beasts offers their own personalities and features that really set the film apart. Aside from just the creatures, the wizarding effects are done just as well. Whether it is everyday magic or an epic wizarding battle, everything feels and looks so real.
Despite all the wonderful things I have to say, I have one complaint: the ending. There may be slight spoilers ahead; you were warned! Ok, so. The film ends pretty abruptly, in my opinion. Graves, the antagonist in the film, is captured and is about to be taken away by the MCUSA when Newt makes a random realization. At this point, Graves reveals his true self as Grindelwald. And we are pretty much left with that. I felt like the reveal was pretty disingenuous. There were no indicators earlier in the film that anything was off about Graves, and it felt like the choice was made just to feature Johnny Depp’s cameo as Grindelwald. Due to the quickness and randomness of the ending, I wasn’t nearly as excited about his reveal as I should’ve been.
All in all, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an amazing addition to the world of Harry Potter. But this is also a film that can be enjoyed entirely on its own, and I think that is the true beauty of Fantastic Beasts. This film has everything working in its favor: a great screenplay, stellar casting, and all set in a beautiful environment. I cannot wait to see what the future of the series has in store.
- Great Characters and Excellent Performances
- Great Introduction to the world and new series
- Creative creatures with first-rate effects
- Jacob and Newt's relationship
- Ended very quickly